I have made colossal mistakes when it comes to buying and selling property. My mistakes have been big as a Colisseum, tall as a tree. I have also been unmistakable in my mistakenness.
A different strain of man or woman - any man perhaps, or a woman different than me - would have got expert advice and neatly jumped ship at the first sign of trouble.
Possibly I am hard-headed and certainly I have stayed at the bus-stop too long. I stayed past nightfall, until morning, doggedly believing in a bus that wouldn't come. I believed in this bus and despite everything I am still waiting. Then one of my transport angels pulls his or her car over and says 'Get in you fool, your options are limited now'.
In my mind's eye I can still see the bus moving.
Like this I lost control of two mortgages. I let my debt snowball and take with it inherited money and pounds saved by me. Most people suggested staying with friends. Staying with friends and renting out my apartment. Their thinking was that if I could catch my arrears before it was too late I could arrest and then reverse my not-so-slow fall. I should have and I could have but I am stubborn; committed to standing where I am, unwilling to get down. I remained at the bus-stop.
The way I saw it I had two flats and I liked them so why shouldn't I live in my home? In the end I lost both my prized possessions.
You have to look at language. I didn't lose my apartments. Also not at the same time. I sold them four years apart on the market and in both cases my timing was dead wrong. What happened is I was cash-strapped and overexposed from too long at the bus-stop.
Golden Egg Number One went onto the housing market the same October that Northern Rock, the building society, made news by failing due to a bank run. I didn't have a mortgage with Northern Rock but that crisis still halted the market.
Nobody was buying anything and I was scuppered because I had to sell. Then a Radio Four presenter offered me something beneath a fair price but more than a song. Eighteen months later that same flat was valued at £100,000 more. I believe my buyer still lives there.
When it came to selling Golden Egg Number Two I had more of a storm warning and, initially, I thought I might avoid the waves. Then Brexit happened which - politics aside - was unthinkable. I knew intelligent people who voted Leave and then the bulk of my social circle who chose Remain. Remain was a done deal as far as all of us were concerned except no-one had looked beyond London.
This brings me more or less to the present moment and the one bit of money that I managed to keep dry through the storm. I took that bit and looked for an investment flat in an area of Greater London I knew nothing about except that it was affordable. My criteria was a purchase price capped at £125,000 - one quarter of that was all I could put down - and I had to achieve this to avoid stamp duty.
Of course I had other criteria.
I would have liked a fire escape or a roof garden, some semblance of the urban living I had aspired to, something beautiful to help me carry on. I can roll off the names of what is desirable as much as anyone. Affordability won in the end.
The red-hot-coal lesson for me of the last 10 years - 10 years or more - is that even when events appear magical, and especially when optimism is raining down, 2 + 2 should only ever be counted on to equal 4. This is always true of money.
This financial introduction is necessary for my story and I did get a bargain place in the end. I bought an ex-local authority, one-bedroom flat in Rainham. This flat had been deliciously raked over by a family of North Africans - lived in strangely and thus transformed. I remember my first viewing.
All the internal door knobs had been removed. There were suitcases everywhere and literally the door knobs were gone. Also there may only have been two TVs in the entire flat but the external windows were covered and both big screens were on. The impression I got stepping into the living-room and then the bedroom was of one massive screen and damage. In addition, the access door to the balcony had been boarded up from the inside with a crazy flowering of wood. The estate agent and I exchanged looks - nails had been driven into the PVC of the door. I remember quietly voicing my thought, 'Unbelievable'.
My over-riding sentiment was 'Poor landlords' - an English couple - and at the same time I thought 'Well - okay - how might this work for me?'. This family of tenants had been properly camping and the recovery of the flat would require some attention. Perhaps the couple that owned it would move further on price? I have always liked the idea of a back-to-brickwork renovation.
I was first to view and I made an offer. Then because of the price a flurry of other offers came and it was the estate agent who flagged me up to the vendors as solid. I was yet to be convinced but my options were limited.
I was reassured by the fact that the camping tenants were pleasant. When the estate agent and I came to view there were four women sitting down. There must also have been a man somewhere - I saw man things lying around. I'm not sure what the women were doing but it looked to me like shelling peas and later that's the story I told. I asked politely if I could please push their hanging fabrics aside just to experience the windows.
There was no protest and seemingly little interest. Mine was an experiment of light. The improvement to the room though was so staggering and so vast that the estate agent and I both uttered something.
I remember my comment being 'Now we're talking.' I am pretty certain the campers looked around. I was all-of-a-sudden happy because the potential of the thing was in my hands. The path of the sun and the moon would be unobstructed and so the room could be beautiful.
The whole set-up reminded me of playing fort in the dining-room when we were kids. My mother - who showed up so often as difficult - inexplicably, she allowed this game. My sister and I or me by myself would make a house beneath the dining-room table. I used bolsters and blankets with the step ladder and then clothes pegs to hang things down.
At this stage of my life playing was everything, and you could be passionate about a makeshift home. My chief pleasure was in being creative and the only proviso we were given is that all be returned to its former beauty by dinner, 6 pm.
I decided I would approach this flat the same way. The Africans had been playing fort for two years.
There is something joyous about purchasing property. Sure I had lost previously but now I was about to gain. I would make this one-bedroom council flat extraordinary and the neighbourhood also. I looked at the dirt in the communal hallways and the bits of garden that were radically untended. I thought the grounds of the building was something I could colour in like a movie. There were already pockets of care. I met the woman downstairs and the man upstairs and they both seemed strong and reasonable. I told myself 'This is it - we will all pull together'.
I took the building on when I bought the flat, and in a way I took on Rainham, Essex. I did it for myself to soften the hard landing of moving there. Even if there was no Waitrose and no Pret a Manger, everybody could still behave. I got a good price on the property and I could afford a makeover. After all, I would be living there at the end of the day. I convinced my interior decorator, Johnny, to please drive out to Essex with his dog and his brilliant ideas.
Johnny's dog was a miniature who was already nervous and poor Henry was nearly eaten by the bulldog across the hall that day. This was my first glimpse of my chav neighbours.
I had never heard the word 'chav' before and it was Johnny the decorator who gave me this; summary and heading. Johnny did it whilst cuddling a traumatised Henry in his arms. I think we both knew Henry was never in any real danger but because the bulldog shot out the door without preamble, Henry's heart nearly gave way. It was piteous to hear Henry cry and it was that crying that brought the bulldog's owner out - and got her talking.
'Oh, he's all right' she said, unclear as to whom she was referring - i.e. which dog. Her name was Charmaine and to my unpracticed eye this girl looked just a few years older than 12. She was white and skinny and it turned out that she had a super-charged toddler with one earring which I guess was why she couldn't control her front door. Certainly it was the reason the bulldog was able to shoot out in search of amusement.
I decided the 'he's all right' referred either to her dog or her baby. I didn't feel all right, Henry didn't look all right and Johnny wasn't happy at all. I took the whole scene in now and it made me uneasy. Whilst Johnny and I communicated about something Charmaine seemed hell-bent on leaving a push chair and an odd-shaped inflatable in the hall. She did so and then pulling her toddler in close she closed the door as though 'out of sight and out of mind' really was something.
Now Charmaine had two less things to worry about having deposited them into our hall. The result being that the cool neutrality of my flat and its approach felt invaded. I know myself. I would need to plumb the depths of this littering, and her general behaviour as well. If I was going to spend money on my base - and I would need to in order to live here for sure - I was not about to be thwarted by maverick kids.
I switched my head and paid attention to Johnny and we made amazing plans for my apartment that took it to another shore.
Johnny said to me 'You have to remember Jeannie that this is the bottom end of the market'.
I said 'Johnny, I know. But I have to live here and it's got to be the best flat in Rainham - and more.'
'It will be'. Johnny reassured me.
If he wasn't gay with one miniature pup too many I would seriously love him. The ability to transform anything into beauty seriously leaves me in awe. I don't ever want to sit down in my life, settle for a hallway full of inflatables, be somebody who can live with the deposit of mess right outside their door.
I was about to go to war with the chavs though and that says something about me also.